In photography the greatest reward is the journey. Countless times I have set out to capture ‘that shot’ and come home with something completely unexpected but more importantly and more valuable – a new experience.
Permit me to share one of the highlights of this year with you. This summer while planning my annual under water fashion photography shoot I felt like I wanted to do more than just fashion under water. I wanted to capture characters that we would otherwise never expect to see under water. The thought process led me to the theme of everyday people in uniform. I thought of the cousin, friend, brother, sister who was a nurse, surgeon, police officer, sheriff, delivery man/woman, people who touched our life and community in some way. Little did I know where this train of thought would lead me.
It was challenging finding a uniformed person wiling to step out of their comfort zone and take a plunge in the pool with all their gear. Enter ‘The Sarge‘, a friend. After explaining my challenges with planning my under water series theme, he immediately volunteered without hesitation. The Sarge is a Sergeant with the US Army as you probably figured out by now. He was willing to take his full complement or gear into the unknown – a swimming pool in an unsuspecting suburban Sacramento neighborhood – LOL. He figured his gear is expected to be in some of the most hostile environments and a pool was the least of his concerns.
The next step was to develop the creative concept for our shoot. Sure I could merely photograph him floating in the sublime medium that water is, but I wanted more. I felt like we should honor this unique opportunity with more creative effort. In another brainstorming session, I explained a completely unrelated scene I wanted to create with a bistro scene under water. He immediately started telling me about the ‘Table of the Fallen‘. My heart sunk as he explained.
The Table of the Fallen
The Table of the Fallen is a table for one, fully set, in every cafeteria, refectory, dining hall or formal ceremony, often times inconspicuously in the corner. The Table of the Fallen is set out for those who did not make it back for dinner that day. This is an unsanctioned, unofficial tradition among service men and women and really only familiar to whose who have served or are close to those who served. There are no military guidelines, mandates, or rules regarding this. A table is simply made with whatever they have and quietly observed by those who made it back in honor of those who didn’t. More often than not, those who didn’t make it back were close friends and family. In further researching I found photos from submarine mess halls to tents, makeshift dinning tables to ceremonial galas. All quietly set in the corner.
The Simple Things
I was certain this would be the focus of this year’s under water series. I then set out to recreate the Table of the Fallen under water. Little did I know how challenging it would be. My first challenge was finding simple props like a classic plate set. Every department store I went to had fancy modern plates. In a last ditch effort, the day of the shoot, I went to a big flea market called Denios. After searching for hours I finally found some simple classic plates. Two older, cheerful, upbeat gentlemen approached me. One of them asked “Can I help you with anything?”. looking at a stack of plates, I asked “Would it be possible to buy just one plate set?”. He replied “I will sell you whatever you want but I just have to ask, why would someone want to buy just one plate set?”.
I hesitated because I realized the purpose may sound outlandish to most. So I told him it was for the recreation of an under water scene in honor of fallen soldiers. His smile immediately vanished. He took a stepped back and said “In that case there’s no charge and thank you.” . As it turns out the two gentlemen are veterans. I left wondering what the odds were that their store was the only place I could find what I was looking for. I made a note to stop by again and deliver signed copies of the final shot of the Table of the Fallen. I was able to track them down this past weekend and say thank you for the help and for their service.
Veterans Day Weekend Exhibit
The shot above, Table of the Fallen will be on exhibit at the Hindman Fine Arts Gallery in downtown Sacramento. Like most of my work, it will be available in very limited edition signed canvas print. However unlike most of my work, they will also be available in smaller more affordable signed prints. All proceeds will be donated to non profits benefiting wounded veterans. We are in the process of looking for non-profits to work with and welcome any/all suggestions. If you would like to purchase prints, please feel free to contact Hindman Fine Arts Gallery directly.
Behind the scenes
Here are more behind the scenes shots. Thank you to all who made the 2018 Underwater Series possible. Thank you for stopping by. Please let me know if you have any thoughts, questions or ideas in the comment section below or via the contact page above.